How Tibetan Monks Use Meditation to Raise Their Peripheral Body Temperature 16–17 Degrees

Tibetan monks in remote regions of the Himalayas have long claimed near mirac­u­lous pow­ers through yog­ic prac­tices that resem­ble noth­ing you’ll find offered at your local gym, though they may derive from some sim­i­lar Indi­an sources. One such med­i­ta­tive prac­tice, a breath­ing exer­cise known as tum­mo, tum-mo, or g‑tummo, sup­pos­ed­ly gen­er­ates body heat and can raise one’s periph­er­al body tem­per­a­ture 16–17 degrees—a dis­tinct­ly advan­ta­geous abil­i­ty when sit­ting out­side in the snow-capped moun­tains.

Per­haps a cer­tain amount of skep­ti­cism is war­rant­ed, but in 1981, Har­vard car­di­ol­o­gist Her­bert Ben­son was deter­mined to take these ancient prac­tices seri­ous­ly, even though his first encoun­ters with west­ern prac­ti­tion­ers of tum­mo pro­duced results he deemed “fraud­u­lent.” Not ready to toss cen­turies of wis­dom, Ben­son decid­ed instead to trav­el to the source after meet­ing the Dalai Lama and receiv­ing per­mis­sion to study tum­mo prac­ti­tion­ers in North­ern India.

Benson’s research became a 20-year project of study­ing tum­mo and oth­er advanced tech­niques while he also taught at the Har­vard Med­ical School and served as pres­i­dent of the Mind/Body Med­ical Insti­tute in Boston, where he believes the study of med­i­ta­tion can “uncov­er capac­i­ties that will help us to bet­ter treat stress-relat­ed ill­ness­es.” The claims of monks who prac­tice tum­mo have been sub­stan­ti­at­ed in Benson’s work, show­ing, he says, “what advanced forms of med­i­ta­tion can do to help the mind con­trol phys­i­cal process­es once thought to be uncon­trol­lable.”

In his own exper­i­men­tal set­tings, “Ben­son found that [Tibetan] monks pos­sessed remark­able capac­i­ties for con­trol­ling their oxy­gen intake, body tem­per­a­tures and even brain­waves,” notes Aeon. Anoth­er study under­tak­en in 2013 by Maria Kozhevnikov, cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist at the Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Sin­ga­pore, “cor­rob­o­rat­ed much of what Ben­son had observed, includ­ing prac­ti­tion­ers’ abil­i­ty to raise their body tem­per­a­tures to fever­ish lev­els by com­bin­ing visu­al­iza­tion and spe­cial­ized breath­ing.”

In the short doc­u­men­tary film above—actually a 7‑minute trail­er for Russ Pariseau’s fea­ture-length film Advanced Tibetan Med­i­ta­tion: The Inves­ti­ga­tions of Her­bert Ben­son MD—we get a brief intro­duc­tion to tum­mo, a word that trans­lates to “inner fire” and relates to the feroc­i­ty of a female deity. Ben­son explains the ideas behind the prac­tice in con­cise terms that sum up a cen­tral premise of Tibetan Bud­dhism in gen­er­al:

Bud­dhists feel the real­i­ty we live in is not the ulti­mate one. There’s anoth­er real­i­ty we can tap into that’s unaf­fect­ed by our emo­tions, by our every­day world. Bud­dhists believe this state of mind can be achieved by doing good for oth­ers and by med­i­ta­tion. The heat they gen­er­ate dur­ing the process is just a by-prod­uct of g Tum-mo med­i­ta­tion

Per­haps cen­turies-old non-Euro­pean prac­tices do not par­tic­u­lar­ly need to be debunked, demys­ti­fied, or val­i­dat­ed by mod­ern sci­en­tif­ic med­i­cine to keep work­ing for their prac­ti­tion­ers; but doc­tors have sig­nif­i­cant­ly ben­e­fit­ed those in their care through an accep­tance of the heal­ing prop­er­ties of, say, psilo­cy­bin or mind­ful­ness, now seri­ous sub­jects of study and clin­i­cal treat­ment in top Euro-Amer­i­can insti­tu­tions. Just as this research is being pop­u­lar­ized among both the med­ical estab­lish­ment and gen­er­al pub­lic, we may some­day see a surge of inter­est in advanced tantric prac­tices like tum­mo.

via Aeon

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Bud­dhism & Neu­ro­science Can Help You Change How Your Mind Works: A New Course by Best­selling Author Robert Wright

How Med­i­ta­tion Can Change Your Brain: The Neu­ro­science of Bud­dhist Prac­tice

How Yoga Changes the Brain and May Guard Against Alzheimer’s and Demen­tia

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (4)
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  • Mike says:

    WTF do you dis­able the video con­trols for? when I see that I leave imme­di­ate­ly. Me, “Do your web design­ers ever read usabil­i­ty stud­ies?” Your web design­ers, “What?”

    • OC says:

      We did­n’t dis­able any­thing. Per­haps the peo­ple who made the video turned off the con­trols you like, but we did­n’t.


  • Jarrett says:

    Mike needs to med­i­tate, I think.

    Sec­ond, I won­der if this is sim­i­lar to Wim Hof’s breath­ing tech­nique.

  • Jan Olvegg says:

    Post­ing the trail­er is fine, but it seems the full video seems is not avail­able for pur­chase. This make the claims ques­tion­able: has the OP been able to watch the full video at all?

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